She removes her glasses, needle between thumb and forefinger, lifting another translucent gold bead from the white dessert dish in front of her.
Suzanne Picot, office administrator for Hospice Yukon, is stitching another “Feelie Heart”.
Her purple sweater and red-wool jacket mirror the colours of the palm-sized heart she holds with her fingers.
“I love that it’s flannel,” Picot says, looking up for a moment.
“It’s a tangible reminder of love,” she says of the Feelie Heart, still in its formative stage, hidden between her palms.
“They’re all a little lopsided and they’re not perfect.
“But that’s how love is, I figure.”
Exactly what Feelie Hearts are all about.
Picot takes joy in slipping them into shoes for the wearer to find. She also clips them onto windshield-wiper blades. And each person who visits Hospice Yukon receives a Feelie Heart.
Picot recalls a teenage girl who stood in the entryway, “just radiating anger … so I gave her a Feelie Heart”. As she played with it, she relaxed and was able to come in.
Picot’s beloved dog died last October and she has even made Feelie Hearts from paw-print flannel for those grieving the loss of a pet.
“Intent,” Picot says, embracing the word like a long-awaited visitor.
“It’s an intent of love.
Each thought seems to be punctuated with gentle pings as beads slip back into the bowl.
The heart is half done.
Picot looks up, her green eyes serious, halting her stitching. “They’re for everybody,” she smiles.
“It’s a constant reminder of loved ones that we lost.
“And I guess it gives us permission to grieve.
“We’re so caught up in our high-speed technology, we don’t take the time to remember.
“We’re in such a hurry.”
Picot settles back in her chair, stitching again as if it were just she and the Feelie Heart – old friends with lots of time to visit.
Each stitch is drawn carefully, thoughtfully, and each seems to accent her thoughts perfectly. Picot is sewing 100 special-edition Feelie Hearts.
And they are going on a journey.
Tagish dog musher, Michelle Phillips, will be carrying them in the 2009 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks, Alaska.
Phillips lost a dear friend, Agata Franczak, to cancer and was touched by the care her friend received from Hospice volunteers. She wanted to help, as well as to honour her friend.
Each special-edition heart will be sold to raise money for Hospice Yukon. Each will travel the Quest, with Phillips, and then be sent out along with a copy of Phillips’ race journal.
But the real value of a Feelie Heart is not in owning one.
“The true gift of a Feelie Heart is when you give it away,” Picot says, with a knowing look.
And with that, another heart has been hand-stitched and stuffed, with edges accented with traditional beading.
Ready to be sent out on the Quest “which, coincidentally, starts Feb. 14. We didn’t plan that.
“Isn’t that great? Picot’s smile affirms the perfect match.
Feelie Hearts may be purchased from the Hospice Yukon website at www.hospiceyukon.net or at Hospice Yukon on Jarvis St.
They will also be available at the international, award-winning film, Dog Gone Addiction, which will be shown at 7 p.m., Jan. 31, at the Visitor Information Centre. The film features Quest mushers Michelle Phillips, Agata Franczak and Kelley Griffin.